Akaash Kumar, a PhD student working with Emmanuel Derivery and James Manton in the LMB’s Cell Biology Division, is one of 12 students to be recognised in the 2023 Cambridge Society for the Application of Research (CSAR) PhD Student Awards for Applied Research. The CSAR PhD Student Awards reward outstanding research with real world application, and assist students to further pursue their careers.
During his PhD, Akaash has developed an innovative imaging system and accompanying software to produce rapid live-cell imaging of multiple fluorescent labels. Whilst this technology is applicable to improve any fluorescence microscopy, in particular for biological sciences, Akaash is using it to study the mechanisms of endosomal sorting of cargoes within mammalian cells.
Fluorescence microscopy is an established technique used widely to study various biological processes, as it allows researchers to visualise specific biological targets with high specificity and contrast by genetically or chemically tagging them with fluorescent labels. However, the technique has been limited in applicability as conventional method are only able to image up to three fluorescent labels simultaneously in live samples. To image more targets, researchers have to image sequentially, which drastically limits the biological information that can be learnt from live microscopy and inhibits observation of fast dynamics.
To tackle this, the multispectral imaging system and software that Akaash has developed allows for rapid live-cell imaging of up to eight simultaneous biological targets, with high specificity and contrast. This allows researchers to gather an unprecedented volume of biological data from a single experiment. His new system has been designed to be compatible with any camera-based fluorescence microscope, to maximise its use by other researchers to address their own scientific problems.
Prior to joining the LMB, Akaash worked at the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. Here, he developed novel bioprocessing technology for stem cell manufacturing, and also assisted with undergraduate and graduate teaching. He received an MSc in Advanced Chemical Engineering with Biotechnology from Imperial College London, and a BEng in Biochemical Engineering from University College London.
Akaash’s research has previously been awarded with the Best Talk Award at Frontiers in Bioimaging 2022 conference, where he presented his PhD research in a talk titled ‘Multispectral live cell imaging with uncompromised temporal resolution.’
Commenting on the CSAR PhD Student Award, Akaash commented, “I am honoured to be selected for this award. The LMB is an amazing, collaborative scientific environment and I feel very fortunate to be conducting my PhD research here within the Cell Biology Division. I would specifically like to thank both my supervisors, Emmanuel Derivery and James Manton, for their continuous support and guidance on my PhD project and career, as well as Alex Haslett-Saunders in the Mechanical Workshop for machining the hardware components. I hope the technology developed during my PhD will benefit scientists to uncover new exciting biology.’’